Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday buns, or fettisdagbullar

For most Americans, Mardi Gras is associated with New Orleans; with beads, masks and parade floats where the colors purple, green and gold predominate. Today, this first-generation immigrant also recalls her own personal set of images and connections, fettisdagbullar.

They go by many names. When Mom made them, they were fettisdagsbullar, or Fat Tuesday buns. In Swedish bakeries they are more commonly called semlor, or Shrove Tuesday buns.

As a primarily secular nation, where Lutheran is the predominant religious affiliation, the true meaning of Fat Tuesday likely mystifies most Swedes. They have, however, fully embraced the cultural phenomenon of semlor.

Semlor are a cardamom-spiced wheat bun. The top is cut off. The insides are scooped out and turned into crumbs. The crumbs are then mixed with almond paste and stuffed back into the bun, which is finally topped with whipped cream. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But they are taken very seriously by Swedes from New Year's Day up until Lent. Traditionally eaten on Tuesday, they are available other days too, because they are delicious. The average Swede eats 5 semlor each year.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Old Man Winter ain't done with us yet

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.

Seriously, is there any better way to tempt the capriciousness of the gods of winter, than to post an ode to Spring? What was I thinking?

The polar bear snow sculpture is courtesy of Diana Nevermind on Flickr.
Here in Virginia, the bears remain in hibernation, clever them.

Last night the ground was bare, even if it had gone frigid cold outside. This morning, I awoke to snow that was deep enough to brush the belly of the dog on his morning walk. I am not exaggerating when I tell you this. Of course, it helps to know that the dog is a very low slung, Chihuahua mix that weighs just a smidgen over 9 pounds. We had between 2 and 3 inches of snow on the ground.

It was that fluffy kind of snow, that lays lightly, outlining tree limbs and old seed heads.

While you are out and about, should you run into the gods of winter, tell them I was just kidding about Spring.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Printemps (Spring) offers a preview

While there are still plenty of bundle up mornings ahead, welcome signs that winter too is a passing season, appear daily. The dawn chorus grows louder and more complex, as it adds the voices of birds working their way north.

Scientists and researchers indicate that there is a shift in the timing of bird migration patterns. In most cases, this translates into the earlier spring arrival of migratory species. Temperature being the climatic variable most frequently related to avian migration, these pattern shifts are seen as a reaction to climate change.

When the afternoons get warm enough here in Virginia, intrepid honey bees can be found gathering nectar and pollen from the earliest spring flowers like the crocus above. The soil will need to warm further before the bumble bees are seen and heard issuing forth their low-pitched buzz.

One of my favorite spring flowers is the Lenten Rose or Helleborus orientalis. It grows very well here in my shaded and partially wooded yard. About as tall as your knee, it blooms for the longest time, from February on into April, in shades of purple, pink and green.

Even if I need a scarf and gloves, as I head out the door this morning, I look forward to waving winter farewell. As an avid gardener and bug watcher Spring is assuredly my favorite season.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Pair of Earrings and Southern Rose Tattoo

Returning from a tour of Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville Virginia, I took the leisurely route on VA highway 250, rather than Interstate 64. Cruising east, I picked up a few grocery bargains at Sharp Shopper Grocery Outlet. Further up the road in Waynesboro, I was drawn into the Artisan's Center of Virginia. Here I fell in love with the jewelry work of Dawn Estrin of Bijou Graphique and indulged myself in the lovely earrings you see posted above.

Using the yellow pages, I located two tattoo parlors in Waynesboro. Collecting the business cards of individual tattoo artists and tattoo parlors is a hobby of mine. The first, Ben Around is a branch of a shop in Charlottesville. A nice fellow from Youngstown, Ohio was minding the shop and after a chat he pointed me in the proper direction to find Southern Rose Tattoo.

Southern Rose was established in 1989 and is located on Commerce Avenue. Commerce Avenue parallels the railroad tracks and the shop is in a hard scrabble, down at the heels neighborhood that the economic times have bitten hard. One of the doors sports the hood of a 50's automobile and it takes a muscular effort to push the front door open. Once inside you nearly overdose on all the creepy eye candy. It's visual overload and it takes a while for you to notice that it's eerily quiet. No one is around. The front room is obviously a former bank building with its large, walk in bank vault still intact. Through an arched alcove you transition to a second room that was probably an old lunch counter. Its stools still await customers.

On this very cold Virginia day an old, metal wood burner is putting forth heat. Next to the heater lies an ancient mongrel. Slowly, he rises on arthritic limbs and makes his way towards me, this mixture of Old English Bulldog and maybe Pitt Bull or Boxer. After a sniffing inspection, his tail ventures a slow wag and he accepts a pat.

Finally, the staff emerges from a small, creaky door behind the lunch counter. Two men enter carrying armloads of of wood to stoke the fire. After putting their burdens down, they offer me a tour. "Have you seen the bicycles hanging from the ceiling?" Many curious artifacts are pointed out. A genuine, human skeleton has lost part of his jaw in a mishap. They reassure me the missing portion is safely stored in a drawer. Gold fish swim among treasures and jewels in a toilet bowl and a full-size, used marble mortuary slab covers a Coca-cola cooler. A taxidermy black bear pedals a bicycle with flag festooned handlebars. Every turn of the head and shift of gaze offers yet another fantastic image.

Should you find yourself in Waynesboro hankering for a tattoo or just lusting for some creepy eye candy, Southern Rose Tattoo is worth a visit.


Two Round Robins

On Wednesday, I completed two round-robin projects, one belatedly and the second within the time guidelines. The first is just starting a 9-month journey, and the second has just one more stop before making it home.
Here, my first-ever button fairy has come out of the back pocket where she resides while traveling. She is suspended by a chain, and once out of the pocket, becomes a necklace.

The red buttons are part of a stash from my collection of vintage buttons. Red ones have attracted me since early childhood.

For this round-robin we were to make a necklace, a carrying device, and a booklet that allows fellow participants to record their thoughts. The project travels forward one person at a time every month. While it is in their possession, the fellow artist adds a charm, an element, or some modification to your project and hopefully contributes to your booklet. Each month you work on someone else's piece. After 9 months your piece comes back to you.
My booklet is an accordion-folded map with pockets that hold individual cards. Its cover is fashioned from a carton that contains 6 bottles of beer.

I thought the image of a redhead in a red dress was well-matched to the other elements in this project.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In Sweden, coffee is a religion

Through Misty Mawn's "Art Every Day" project, I met Lotta Helleberg on the internet. She is a Swedish textile designer that, lo and behold, resides in Charlottesville.
Swedish is a language I speak, though not as fluently as I would like with so little opportunity to practice. Lotta & I set up a coffee date at Shenandoah Joe's, where we had a spirited dialogue about art, our families, and life on planet Earth. It felt comfortable inviting Lotta to coffee, because as she later remarked, "Drinking coffee is almost a religion in Sweden." Swedes may indeed drink more coffee than most anyone else.
The images on my post today are Lotta's work, taken from her Etsy site. You can check her textiles out here:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Zero Balance

My first out-of-town adventure of 2009 takes me to Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia and Monticello, lies 250 miles to the east of Bristol.

The stated reason for this trip is to take the second in a series of four classes leading toward certification in a manual handling methodology called Zero Balancing. Zero balancing is an intriguing technique and is a body of knowledge developed by an osteopath named Fredrick Fritz Smith. Its origins blend Eastern and Western approaches to health and science. Zero balancing incorporates the transition from Newtonian to Quantum thinking and physics.

As the training takes place on consecutive weekends, and I am spending the week in between in Charlottesville, several other scheduled and unscheduled events and adventures await.